Zach loves basketball. He loves playing, loves watching, loves talking about it. And he hates to see KU lose. But this isn’t a story about him and it isn’t a tragedy. This is a love story about a romance between two people which blossomed over the years at the Final Four.
Zach and I met in a journalism class at the end of January 2003. Our relationship developed quickly and by the time he got back from the Final Four that year I knew I never wanted to be apart from him. Following the school year, I stayed in Lawrence for an internship and spent my summer evenings watching Zach play in four softball leagues.
Senior year came and softball leagues gave way to basketball intramurals and our friends gave up any idea of seeing the two of us separately.
Here is us at the 2004 Final Four:
This was a few months before we graduated from KU. Zach had by now decided he would do anything to be with me and was working hard to graduate a year early – with me. An older woman, I know, gasp. Luckily his facial hair and receding hairline have kept him from being carded for years and my freckles and sweet disposition keep people asking where I am thinking about attending college after graduation.
I was happy to be with Zach and really wanted to impress his family on this trip. I was excited about what the future would bring. we were headed to Lincoln; he would be starting law school and I would be looking for a job.
Here is us at the 2006 Final Four:
This was just a few months before we tied the knot. He is looking good, no? A few years with me and he was looking very polished. This was right before the end of his second year of law school and the summer he moved to Kansas City to work for the firm that would later offer him a job for after graduation. I spent the summer working, planning a wedding in Nebraska, and wishing I was with him. We were finally getting married, but there was a lot of change and uncertainty about what would come after that.
And here is us at the 2008 Final Four:
This was taken right after KU won. This was one of my favorite sports memories of all time. Not that I have a long list. Most, actually all of them, come from after meeting Zach. The night I learned to be calm and appreciate the experience of playing golf for the pleasure of company and enjoy the beauty my surroundings. The time Zach taught me to shoot free throws on a court in the UNL rec center that we had all to ourselves. The time I made my first par with only him there to bear witness. The time I ran in my first 5K with him staying right by my side even though he hates running and could have left me in the dust.
By this time Zach had graduated law school, I had entered graduate school, we had moved to Kansas City, bought our first home, and brought home our first dog. We learned how to cope as a couple with stress and change and to enjoy our journey.
This year, unfortunately, the road for KU ended last night. But this has happened for us before. Like in 2004 when Zach watched KU lose at the Elite Eight, I shut myself in my bedroom and cried from the disappointment and the let down. But like our relationship with each other, our relationship with the ‘Hawks has matured. There will be no Final Four trip for us this year, but there were no tears over basketball either. This year we have a lot to look forward to in the near future. And next year we will have a Baby Jay of our own to help us cheer on the ‘Hawks.